In this final article in the series on shari’a we turn our focus to the ways in which people who transgress shari’a rulings are punished.
Modern human rights principles identify ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ as one of the most basic and fundamental violations of human rights. Unfortunately, Islamic law mandates exactly this kind of punishment for a variety of offences, some of which would not be regarded as crimes in other jurisdictions. These punishments include:
Amputation: There are two verses of the Qur’an (and plenty of hadiths) that mandate the removal of limbs for offences against Islamic law. They are Qur’an 5:33: “The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter”; and Qur’an 5:38: “As to the thief, Male or female, cut off his or her hands: a punishment by way of example, from Allah, for their crime: and Allah is Exalted in power.”
Stoning: Although not directly mandated in the Qur’an, stoning still forms part of the shari’a legal codes. This is because of the insistence of Muhammad’s wife Aisha (supported by Caliph Umar) that the Qur’an once contained a verse commanding the stoning of adulterers.
Crucifixion. Executing criminals through crucifixion is an ancient and barbaric practice that amounts to terrible torture before the victim dies. Yet it is commanded as a punishment in Qur’an 5:33 (see above) and is therefore an acceptable punishment under shari’a.
This series of articles merely skimmed the surface as far as the incompatibility of shari’a and modern values is concerned. It should be sufficient, however, to convince the reader that the application of Islamic law is certainly not a recipe for utopia but that it will instead inevitably lead to the entrenchment of inequality, injustice and cruelty.